Texas Exes Changes Plans for Spring Ring Ceremony Due to Campus Closure
By Mercedes Gonzales
Photography By Roxanne Springman
The University of Texas ring ceremony is the highlight of every semester, with the rings placed underneath a lit Tower and presented to students the next day. But due to the campus closing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 spring ring celebration could not be held. Texas Exes had to figure out how to deliver the 1,041 rings that were ordered.
“The good news is traditions do last way past a pandemic and one semester,” Courtney Roehling, Vice President of Engagement at Texas Exes, said. “So, our real focus is making sure we can get the rings to [the students] as quickly as possible”
When figuring out how to get rings to students, Texas Exes had to consider the Austin stay-at-home order, which is set to expire on May 8th. The ordinance requires Austin residents to stay home unless conducting an essential activity or business. Balfour, the company that makes UT’s rings, had to stop production under the order. Balfour could not be reached for an interview.
Texas Exes then sent out an email to everyone that ordered a ring to fill out a form with three delivery options: having their ring shipped directly to them (after Balfour can start production again), picking up their ring at the Texas Exes center when campus reopens, or receive their ring at the scheduled Fall Tower Dedication and Ring Celebration.
“Students are all over the place,” Roehling said. “They’re not all in Austin. Many of them had to return home to finish out their semester.”
Roxanne Springman, third year Arts and Entertainment Tech major, chose to receive her ring at the fall ceremony. Springman had been waiting to get her ring since she was eligible her sophomore year. Whenever she went to the Texas Expresso café to grab a coffee, she’ll look at the UT rings in a case near the front of the store. But at that time, she didn’t think she’d be able to afford a ring.
In her junior year, after saving money from two jobs and receiving assistance from Foster Angels of Central Texas, a non-profit organization who helps foster children like Springman, Springman went to the alumni center and ordered her ring. For Springman, her UT ring is a reminder of being part of the UT community and memories she made, from being a resident assistant to running the Texas flag at the football games as part of Alpha Phi Omega.
“It means I did it,” Springman said. “It means I get to have that tradition, that pride.”
The fall ceremony is scheduled for November 19th-20th. Roehling says they are keeping social distancing in mind, which means adding more time slots for students to choose when to receive their rings on the big day. Texas Exes plans for a slightly bigger fall ceremony crowd due to the spring ceremony being cancelled. They also have backup plans in case the fall celebration can’t happen for the same reason as the spring celebration.
“I’m hoping no matter what, just like the rest of the country, that we’ve learned a lot of different processes to be safe,” Roehling said. “And if for some reason the larger 3,000 person can’t happen, we can still make that moment really, really special and get those rings and the tower the night before to dedicate them for sure.”
The other delivery option is to ship the ring directly to the student. Students can expect the ring to be shipped 30-60 days after the stay-at-home orders are lifted in Austin and Balfour can continue production. Third year psychology major Jacqueline Guevara chose this option because she is graduating this semester. She isn’t sure if she is able to attend the fall ceremony because she would have to travel from the Rio Grande Valley, where she lives.
Guevara was eligible for her UT ring since her freshman year. She brought in core classes and foreign language credit from high school that went toward her college hours. But Guevara was waiting until she was 21 to begin the sponsorship process for her parents. That way they can be U.S residents and able to attend the ring ceremony. Guevara says she was heartbroken when she realized the spring ring ceremony wasn’t going to happen.
“It would’ve been nice to have [my parents] there on campus,” Guevara said. “And finally see the environment I’ve been in for the past couple of years.”
The final delivery option is for students to pick up their ring at the Texas Exes center when campus reopens. Students will need their ID to get their ring. UT Austin plans to announce if the university will reopen for fall classes by the end of June. Just like with the fall celebration, Roehling says they are keeping social distancing in mind.
“It’s going to be scheduling people in different groups at different times,” Roehling said. “To make sure that we can make that process is as safe and contact free as possible so that they can pick up their rings.”
While this wasn’t the spring ceremony they had in mind, both Guevara and Springman still look forward to the moment they open their UT ring box, surrounded with family and friends.
“Not only did I sit there thinking forever, ‘I was never going to get it’,” Springman said. “I was able to get it. Now I just have to wait patiently.”